President-Elect Obama’s “Remarks on American Recovery and Reinvestment” on Jan. 8, 2009, emphasized refitting America with job creation in the private sector ( public jobs like teachers, cops and firefighters mentioned briefly), along with investments in three areas: clean energy, high-tech upgrading of schools, labs and libraries, and the rebuilding of schools, roads and broadband networks. He also calls for $1000 in tax cuts for middle-class “working families.”

http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2009-01-08-obama-economy_N.htm

I’m most closely connected to education and so noticed his leaving out  Pell grants for college students and ignoring data that shows education and testing improves when teacher: student ratios are kept low. Instead, he proposes technology will “upgrade schools.” Yet technology, to be effective, requires more education–but education of a particular kind. We need to teach students how to think and solve problems, not merely to purchase and test out the newest money-making tools for corporations, or to entrench our dependence on finding more money to buy more technology-the same old rat trap.

We need the “vision thing,” missing since JFK and his brother Bobby-unless you want to count Reagan’s “It’s Morning in America” wishful thinking. Are Obama’s “high-tech, high-wage jobs” and competing against kids in Beijing really the best our future generation can hope for? The wind and solar power he mentions may be smarter technologies, but we have larger human questions to face about what we do with our inventions and how we measure their impacts.

As the foundation of this megalithic global economy crumbles around us, so do its unsustainable assumptions of inducing debt as the only way to grow capital. It is debt repaid by an overproduction of goods and exhaustion of our natural resources, which is also unsustainable.  We need new paradigms for reframing economic thinking and addressing our overload of debt, both our nation’s and our private ones, on a planet clearly in trouble. Monetary reform and revamping our relationship with the private Federal Reserve bank should be on the table, along with a concrete food-basket standard for stabilizing global currencies. Education for women, daycare support, and changing international birth control policy, might also help “competition.”

Most importantly, we need to make visible the economy of EROS, our human exchanges with each other and the earth. Competition can be dramatic, even fun in the short-term, but cooperation, collaboration and “paying” sustained attention is more economical in the long-term. These activities tend not to “count” in competition. Labor continues to be discounted in Obama’s economic thinking-and the “free labor” of maintaining life, including yours and your kids at home, remains invisible. Maybe Obama has a staff and Michelle to watch over such details-but most of us don’t and his $1000 tax cut splurge on the nation’s credit card won’t purchase much help.